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  1. Cis Supremacy, Feminism and Feministe : The Curvature

    […] I have just posted an acknowledgement of the boycott and what happened, and a full apology. I thought that my readers over here should know about it as well; click on over if you wish to read. […]

  2. Ros
    Ros April 14, 2009 at 2:07 pm |

    Very well-worded. Thank you.

  3. Whit
    Whit April 14, 2009 at 2:09 pm |

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m not trans, but comment moderation is the big FAIL at the big feminist blogs (feministe/feministing/pandagon/shakesville/etc). This is why women of color, trans women, fat women, and others, I’m sure, feel unwelcome on the big blogs.

    Because commenters are not only allowed to say hurtful and offensive things that reinforce their white/cis/hetero/class/thin privilege, but the moderators don’t call them on it, and make it absolutely clear that this is not just an environment where women are respected and valued, but all women are respected and valued, and that kind of thing is just not tolerated.

    And so, the responsibility rests also at the feet of the moderators to frame the discussion. Failing to do this alienates a lot of readers. Actions, please, not words.

  4. emfole
    emfole April 14, 2009 at 2:10 pm |

    thank you.

  5. Dori
    Dori April 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm |

    Thank you for addressing this Cara.

    I held little hope that this would be addressed at all, and I’m glad it was. I’m still on the fence about the boycott. I’m a regular reader here and I generally lurk, but as someone who benefits from cis-privilege, I kind of feel like I have a responsibility to help improve a space.

    Again, still on the fence, but I was really glad to see this here.

  6. Amanda in the South Bay
    Amanda in the South Bay April 14, 2009 at 2:17 pm |

    I’m trans, and I’ll admit to not sharing the same feelings of outrage, mostly because I rarely have the time to read all the comments on a particular blog post.

    I have a pretty good idea of what constitutes feminist transphobia and misogyny, and I’ve never felt that way about Feministe in the past. Honestly, it seems like the only issue here is more stringent comment moderation, not anything to do with Feministe per se; god knows all blogs have issues with wayward commenters who say nasty stuff. Everyone makes mistakes and gets blinded by issues of privilege-what matters isn’t that those mistakes are made, but that hopefully people learn from them.

  7. mzbitca
    mzbitca April 14, 2009 at 2:37 pm |


    I think the big problem is that a lot of times on Trans-centered posts and often posts for WOC the comments that are insulting and silencing aren’t outright saying nasty stuff. It’s often times commentors just forgetting that just because the post doesn’t directly deal with something they’ve experienced they shouldn’t latch onto the one sentence that they relate to and make the thread about that topic disregarding the main thesis of the post. Then, when understandably and justifiably people for whom these issues are serious and part of their identity try to bring it up that’s when the nasty stuff comes out but at that point the hurt has been done. I don’t believe that Feministe is transphobic or that they outright try to exclude and hurt trans-identified commentors like some of the rad-fem sites. I just believe that there is a lot of privilege blindness combined with a lot of throwing the term ally around and it can start to rub people the wrong way when, a lot of people who claim to be an ally have a literal chance to stand up and show it and they miss the opportunity, both as commentors and moderators

  8. Kim
    Kim April 14, 2009 at 3:09 pm |

    Thank you.

  9. Renee
    Renee April 14, 2009 at 3:14 pm |

    That was a brave post Cara. It can be a really tough thing to admit when one messes up and to do so on such a public platform as Feministe says something. I have been struggling with this issue for months now. I want to be a good ally to the trans community, as it is clear to me that often their issues are often over looked. Knowing this does not make it easier if you are still on the learning curve yourself. It has been my experience that while there are those that would never publicly utter transphobic commentary, they ignore posts on trans issues or purposefully refuse to engage thus displaying their privilege. You can guide a horse to water but you cannot make them drink. It seems that no matter the circumstance people want to privilege their experience over that of others. Even if you increase the number of posts if people do not see the need for these conversations to happen no real change is going to happen. I believe along with discussing trans rights we need to talk about power and privilege. If we cannot confront the our desire to wrongfully place ourselves into the center of every conversation no real change can occur.

  10. Irene M.
    Irene M. April 14, 2009 at 3:20 pm |

    Thank you for this post. I’m looking forward to reading more trans related articles here and on the Curvature.

  11. freedomgirl
    freedomgirl April 14, 2009 at 3:37 pm |

    I wish there were a way to think even more deeply about these issues, to fully understand the mechanisms of privilege and how it makes us blind and insensitive, even when we fervently desire not to be. I wish there were ways that we could let each other know that we feel uncomfortable that would be respected by everyone. I appreciate your posting this apology.

  12. Claire
    Claire April 14, 2009 at 3:42 pm |

    I’m also trans, and I also missed the party… But, I will say that Feministe is, in my estimate, the most trans-friendly “large” blog I’ve ever encountered with a management that is not exclusively trans. Boycotting one of our best allies on the web would seem to me to be not in our best interest. I mean, sure, we could take our ball and go home, but that’s NOT the way to build an integrated feminist community online.

    It’s not even like Cara is saying, “Shut up kids, I’m King Shit of Fuck Mountain, and all I say and do is right.” Instead, she’s actively apologizing and promising to do better. Any mis-steps or negligent moderation certainly doesn’t rise to HRC-like levels deserving of boycott.

  13. Molly
    Molly April 14, 2009 at 3:46 pm |

    Please forgive my ignorance. I keep seeing the term “cis,” often in relation to “trans” and I don’t know what it means. My understanding of all this will be much better if one of you would be kind enough to enlighten me.

  14. imogen
    imogen April 14, 2009 at 3:46 pm |

    While I agree that the proof really is in what happens over the next days or months (or years or), I *am* impressed that you made this post.

  15. olivetti
    olivetti April 14, 2009 at 3:57 pm |

    It has been my experience that while there are those that would never publicly utter transphobic commentary, they ignore posts on trans issues or purposefully refuse to engage thus displaying their privilege. You can guide a horse to water but you cannot make them drink.

    I have a slightly different take on this. I recognize that I’m in a position of privilege for a whole range of reasons, including being cis and white. I carefully read posts about trans issues on this blog and on others like questioning transphobia, but I don’t think I would ever, ever comment on a thread about trans issues. This is not because I don’t care about issues affecting trans folk, but rather because I know I’m still learning. I don’t feel comfortable barging into the discussion with my questions, my confusion, my privilege. I don’t want to make anybody feel invisible, or unsafe, in real life or on the interwebs.

    This is just to say that a scarcity of comments probably does not directly equal lack of interest.

  16. z
    z April 14, 2009 at 4:00 pm |

    I heard about the fuss at Feministing, but not here. At least I know there are a few allies here, and allies sometimes mess up, and at least not in the same amount of failure as is apparent at Feministing.

  17. emrez49
    emrez49 April 14, 2009 at 4:01 pm |

    Going back to what several others have said here: I think a large part of the problem comes down to commenters. Let’s pretend that Cara and others were more successful on their end at creating a more safe space for people who identify as trans. But unless readers/commenters are also willing to make those efforts, such safety will never be realized.

    And I think that, in part, this is a problem with the medium by which we’re communicating. While we call it a “feminist blogosphere” or a “feminist blogging community,” we still have that ability to remain anonymous. We can refuse to engage with ideas that really challenge our beliefs/preconceptions. And because it doesn’t happen in real time, conversations can become disjointed and, perhaps, not as productive as face-to-face ones (though I recognize that people can also easily refuse to engage here as well). So while, yes, we can use blogging as a tool for change and to talk about issues or privilege and power, it’s going to take a lot more work outside of the blogosphere to make that happen.

  18. Ellestar
    Ellestar April 14, 2009 at 4:07 pm |

    This post has opened my eyes a little to my own cis privilege. While I don’t believe I participated in the threads here or over on feministing that have resulted in the boycott, I could definitely see, if I had read the comments in detail, how I could have wanted to contribute to the thread, but instead participate in its derailment by focusing on things that I have experienced and understand (like birth control pills).

    I now understand how annoying that would be and how it fails to create a safe place for trans women to discuss the salient issues at hand. I think I will definitely be more aware of how I contribute to threads on these sites now in order keep from silencing others and the discussion they need to have.

  19. Emmett
    Emmett April 14, 2009 at 4:17 pm |

    Cara, two things:

    1. no wonder many trans women are absolutely furious.

    It is not only trans women who have noticed and stopped reading this blog on a regular basis. For years now, the only posts I have bothered to read have been Holly’s.

    2. Instead of letting Molly derail with a Trans 101 question, she should be told to look it up for herself. In fact, I’m 100% certain that piny had a post a long time ago that talked about how posts on trans issues are consistently derailed by clueless cis people who drag the conversation back to the very basics TIME AFTER TIME AFTER TIME. Cis people should check their privilege and not expect the very mention of “trans” in a post to be an invitation to make the thread about their own education.

  20. Fiendish
    Fiendish April 14, 2009 at 4:18 pm |

    This post really made me think about my role as a commenter in creating – and fighting for – a space in which to discuss trans issues. Trans men and women should not have to struggle to be heard, but if that’s the case, I should be struggling to hear them. I’m just starting to recognise that, and I know I have a lot to learn – but I can at least commend you here on a very well-written post.

    But as for the boycott: I’m not sure if it’s a reasonable response. Given that the blogger’s role in comment moderation is at best extremely vague, pinning the blame for a comment thread that went so seriously awry on the author of the post seems unhelpful – as does removing trans presence from this website. I hope this isn’t offensive or ignorant – and if it is, I welcome being corrected (really really).

  21. ElleDee
    ElleDee April 14, 2009 at 4:27 pm |

    Hmm, well, it looks like there’s a comment problem and a post problem. Obviously bloggers are in control of their own original posts, so it is much easier for you, Cara, to write more about trans issues and be more aware and sensitive when doing so if you are really committed (which you seem to be and I’m not questioning that).

    But when the problem is in the comments… that’s a whole ‘nother issue. Even if every blogger at Feministe and Feministing is clued in, if the commentariat isn’t then of course the comment threads are going to go be slick with people who wouldn’t recognize their own privilege if it was sewn to their face. It’s pretty much a given.

    I think that you (and all the other big name bloggers that get caught up in various feminist blogosphere dramas) need to call out your own audience. A lot. Because it isn’t just your problem and it isn’t just Feministe and Feministing’s problem, it’s all of us. Your personal apologies can help heal some wounds, but if you only address your own actions we (the commentariat) look at it as your problem and never have to look in the mirror. You say you have done so much learning this week, so share it with us! We need to be schooled, probably repetitively, because we are the biggest offenders. We need to see where the privilege meets the road and how well intentioned, smart, caring feminist bloggers keep having to put their foot in their mouth. How else will feminism as a whole evolve if the people on top don’t challenge everyone else to go on the same journey that they do when they screw up? This blog embraces all sort of issues that intersect with feminism, so it should expect its commenters to respect that. They ought to be *expected* to respect that. If they don’t, then why are they here?

  22. Emmett
    Emmett April 14, 2009 at 4:30 pm |

    Whit, why don’t you keep your focus on the blogs you’re actually commenting at instead of assuming for trans people what blogs we do and don’t feel welcome on?

  23. JessSnark
    JessSnark April 14, 2009 at 4:36 pm |

    “What I, as a cis woman, deeply misunderstood as a mere annoyance, trans women understood as damaging, silencing and erasing.”
    Very well said, Cara. I, too, am going to try to do better and work on fixing my blind spots. I look forward to reading your future posts on this.

  24. Jadey
    Jadey April 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm |

    Fiendish said: the blogger’s role in comment moderation is at best extremely vague

    I am a cis woman and not in a position to be offended or comment on ignorance, but (providing I have not misinterpreted this statement) I would suggest that Cara’s post is pointing out that the moderating role, while perhaps not perfectly defined, is nonetheless important and was clearly not fulfilled on past threads. Personally, I think a strong and consistent moderation policy tends to facilitate rather than undermine open conversation.

    As for the boycott, I can only guess that after having been silenced so many times in so many ways, reclaiming that silence as their own and on their own terms is a necessary and empowering act. I think the focus is better applied to examining what went wrong within the Feministe community, rather than talking about the actions of the people who have been hurt in the first place.

    Thank you, Cara, for the post, for opening up the dialogue, and for committing to a higher standard.

  25. abby jean
    abby jean April 14, 2009 at 4:46 pm |

    i agree with emmett on the trans 101 question. this is exactly the sort of thread that is clearly focused on trans issues beyond a 101 level, and the post clearly specifies that the comments will be moderated to ensure that is remains a trans centric space. i’m not sure how 101 questions fit in to that space. as a cisgendered woman i’d hesitate to say something like “101 questions can never be part of a trans centric space,” because those aren’t my rules to make, but it doesn’t seem to fit very well.

    this raises what i think is the larger issue here – how effective can cis people be in policing a trans centric space? (i think this applies to privilege other than cis/trans, but want to honor the trans centricness of this thread.) when i see something and find it offensive based on gender or disability, etc, i respond mainly with my gut, rather than my head. as an ally, i can intellectually understand the nature of cis/trans privilege, but i simply do not have the experience living as a trans person to instinctively respond on a gut level. instead, i analyze and respond with my head, which means that if i haven’t learned enough, my policing will inherently be insufficient.

    i think that dichotomy comes in to play a lot more with comment moderation, which is likely more on the fly, individualized, not reviewed by others, than drafting an original post. so i’m not surprised the problems have arisen with comment moderation more than the posts themselves. could a potential solution be enlisting assistance in the moderation? i realize that places the responsibility for policing on the trans person helping with moderation, which is not ideal. another method could be erring on the side of deletion in trans centric threads. (and i’m not at all sure that either of those would be workable and/or effective.)

    this is a thorny problem, but one of the things i like about feministe infinitely more than feministing is the effort to discuss and grapple with these issues publicly. this post is a good start.

  26. Emily
    Emily April 14, 2009 at 4:56 pm |

    I think that there are 2 ways to create a safe space.

    One is to create a space that is dominated by the particular group for whom you want it to be safe. If a space is dominated by that group, then even if ignorant, insulting or dismissive comments are posted, the fact that members of the group being disrespected are dominant in the space mean that there will be ample response by the blogger/s and commenters to address the comments, to rebut/refute the comments, and to prevent silencing thread de-railment. Although one out-numbered troll can derail a thread, usually an interesting productive on-topic discussion can resume when a moderator steps in to say – stop feeding the troll and derailment and lets get back to the point, sometimes accompanied by banning the troll. If it’s not a troll but a good-faith problematic comment, then commenters who want to may engage in a good 101 discussion or direct the person to a place where that conversation is more appropriate.

    Outside of spaces dominated by the group seeking a “safe space” I really think the only way to achieve a safe space is the heavy moderation of the thread by moderator/s willing to delete off-topic or insulting comments and to clearly re-direct the thread in a positive direction. There are many ways to do this, some more forceful, some more polite. One option, when seeing a de-rail, but an interesting de-rail that is perhaps germane to the overall topics of the blog, is to re-direct the de-rail into an open thread. Post a new thread, and post a comment ini the old thread saying “this is interesting, but off-topic, please continue this conversation in the newly created thread. all future comments on this topic in this thread will be deleted.”

    Also, while I like Cara’s post, and I’m glad she posted it, I am a little turned off by the congratulatory comments. I guess I feel like sometimes when “big” bloggers (a somewhat problematic descriptor, but I don’t know what else to use) bring a discussion of criticism they’ve received from a more marginalized group into their own “big” blog space, the thread turns into this “don’t feel bad, you really are great!” pick-me-up cheerleading fest. I know that’s not WHY Cara posted this, and I know she did it at Voz’s suggestion, which I appreciate knowing. But those types of comments still make me a little uncomfortable.

    I appreciate Cara linking to the criticisms because I think the best way to expose Feministe lurkers and commenters to the issue is through reading the criticisms AND the response.

  27. Salome
    Salome April 14, 2009 at 4:56 pm |

    Wow, this post is quite eye-opening for me as a cis-gendered woman. I knew transwomen were much more marginalized than cis women, but never realized quite to the degree how much my cis privilege affects me, and how much it hurts transwomen. This post was very illuminating. Thank you – I think I might think about trans-related issues in a different way from now on. ;)

  28. jayinchicago
    jayinchicago April 14, 2009 at 4:56 pm |

    …besides, I personally don’t agree that cis is necessarily short for cisgender. I think cisgender/transgender is a hard binary for transsexual people to fit into.
    getting the derailment back on track? maybe? not sure.

  29. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 14, 2009 at 5:17 pm |

    So I think that thank you comments really don’t do anything to really move the conversation forward. And while part of this post is reflective of Cara’s personal journey through this issue (or that’s what I gather at least)–I’m wondering what else can be said?

    How can we move the conversation to ways of making the feminist blogosphere a more trans inclusive space? What are suggestions of behaviors and attitudes that are cis privileged that we can be personally checking ourselves (those of us in the conversation that identify as cisgendered) on in conversations?

  30. ElleDee
    ElleDee April 14, 2009 at 5:18 pm |

    I have followed VaginaPagina (a livejournal womens health community) for years and they have very, very strict rules in order to foster a safe space. They have an entirely separate lj community (contact_vp) that deals with the meta issues of commenting to prevent threads from getting derailed. If someone breaks safe space or says something offensive or judgmental, you go over to contact_vp and alert the mods, and people talk about whether or not it’s a violation and the mods make a final ruling and issue a warning or a ban or do nothing depending on the situation.

    I don’t know how that would work in an actual blog setting. Their goals are to give advice and provide information without being judgmental to anyone, so it’s easy to shut down entire lines of discussion that aren’t in line with that goal. Here we have discussions and censorship is more of an issue. I can see the problems already, the privileged ganging up on the oppressed, but I want to hear what issues disadvantaged groups have with these comments and I want out of line commenters to have to be called out in an authoritative way. This is not the first time Elaine has derailed a thread for her own purposes, but she’s not the only repeat offender. A kind of community review process would take a ton of work I know, but it’s at least a different idea.

  31. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax April 14, 2009 at 5:35 pm |

    Re the role of commenters, especially the issue of comment-counts on trans-oriented posts. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I read, process, and think pretty seriously about just about every post y’all either write or link to on trans stuff. Quite a few of Feministe’s posts on these issues have significantly helped me to examine my cis privilege and think differently about trans issues than I have in the past.

    However, I usually don’t comment on trans posts.

    Sometimes I don’t feel I have anything worthwhile to add. I think I spend more time beating myself up about superfluous commenting and potential derails (on ALL posts!) than I do resolving to comment more about more stuff. I think I probably need to STFU already about most things.

    Other times, in light of that, I feel that not only do I have nothing particularly worthwhile to add, my participation in the comment thread might have a negative impact on the conversation. The fear of saying something “wrong” or revealing of privilege is partially narcissism, but it’s also not wanting to be the moron who sticks their thumb in the pie and fucks it up for everyone.

    Still other times, I just feel that it’s not my place. Again, not so much out of the fear that I won’t earn my Good Ally Cookie, but that, as someone who is not impacted by this stuff, I should give others a turn to dominate the discussion for once.

  32. Molly
    Molly April 14, 2009 at 5:45 pm |

    I only just noticed your comment on my question, and Cara’s answer about some trans-related terminology.

    How can you expect a “cis” person like myself to understand trans issues without educationg herself about the basics?

    FWIW, I did a quick search on the Urban Dictionary and didn’t come up with anything. My question wasn’t meant to derail anything.


  33. me and not you
    me and not you April 14, 2009 at 5:58 pm |

    I’m a femme cis female, but consider myself very much a trans ally.

    I infrequently comment, but I will almost never read the comments sections of the major feminism blogs when they’re discussing trans issues *precisely* because of this.

    In terms of “what you can do”–I would suggest some kind of weekly/monthly education oriented post (trans 101 if you must) because people are downright ignorant about this stuff, and aren’t going to go to the effort to learn the basics. When I talk to people about trans issues, most of my time is dominated by explaining the differences between “cross dresser” “transsexual” and “transgender” and whatever else may have come up. I’m not an activist or particularly knowledgeable, and yet I’m frequently the “go to” person when gender stuff in general comes up (in my personal life) and that’s just sad.

  34. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax April 14, 2009 at 5:59 pm |

    How can you expect a “cis” person like myself to understand trans issues without educationg herself about the basics?

    Molly, the answer is fairly easy to find via google — it’s not on the first page, but if you scroll to the bottom, you’ll see that “other recommended searches” gives you “cis trans”. That would be a huge clue.

    Typing “cis” into wikipedia returns “cisgender” as one of the first possibilities.

    You could also use context clues (remember those from third grade?) to guess that it’s the opposite of “trans”, which would at least give you some ideas of how to find out more if that ultra-rudimentary understanding wasn’t enough for you.

    There are also quite a few Trans 101 threads floating around the interwebs, at least one of which has appeared here on Feministe. Which I link partially for the benefit of others who might have beginner level questions like Molly’s.

  35. The Opoponax
    The Opoponax April 14, 2009 at 6:02 pm |

    Oh, and btw, “cisgender” is most certainly listed at urbandictionary.

  36. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 14, 2009 at 6:03 pm |


    “How can you expect a “cis” person like myself to understand trans issues without educationg herself about the basics?”

    Not to speak for Emmett but I think the point of the response was not, Trans 101 conversations are bad and annoying but that they can derail energies from conversations. It is a privilege for someone to feel like other people must explain an issue to them. Because like you said, one could take the initiative to do the background research themselves, and not ask a derailing question in the comments.

    AND then back to my other point about discussing ideas of how to make the feminist blogosphere a more trans inclusive space!

    I am a pretty big fan of heavy moderation when it comes to trans issues. Specifically because as many tranfeminist have pointed out there is a history of transphobia and trans misogyny in mainstream, U.S. based feminism that is implicitly loaded into many of discussions of feminist issues. Like with the “bathroom panic” discussion that was brought up over at Questioning Transphobia.

  37. piny
    piny April 14, 2009 at 6:04 pm |

    How can you expect a “cis” person like myself to understand trans issues without educationg herself about the basics?

    Well, this might be a derail itself, but you didn’t educate yourself. You came onto a thread that was related only in the sense that it was about trans stuff–and cis privilege–and asked people to educate you. Educating yourself would mean looking it up yourself.

    Google, as well as the forementioned wikipedia:

    “Cis” and “trans” together admittedly don’t elucidate anything, unless you’re into etymology.

    There is an urban dictionary entry for “cisgender,” which usually crops up in relation to trans; you could also have checked the plain old dictionary for cis as in cismontane.

    I appreciate that you did actually JFGI, but this is not a level of research that would pass muster with a sixth-grade teacher. You have other options, and you should consider using them.

  38. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 14, 2009 at 6:09 pm |

    @35 I really like the idea of being intentional about devoting time to covering trans issues. i realize that this might seem forced at first (because it kind of is) but i also think it shows a commitment to changing the pace of this blog (and other blogs that might adopt such a policy)

  39. Ivy
    Ivy April 14, 2009 at 6:12 pm |

    More or less what The Opoponax @33 said re: not commenting on trans posts; somewhere in the post here Cara said something about the birth control derailing having more comments than the post about Angie Zapata. I did not comment on either, but I did not comment on the post about Zapata because WTF am I meant to say? Exactly. Nothing. It’s horrible and a woman is dead because someone was an asshole, and there’s fuck-all I can say about it except for that. Is there something more appropriate to say? I doubt it.

    My long point is that it is potentially a misconception to measure the gravitas of a particular post based on how many comments there are in the thread.

    Insofar as trans-centric comment threads go in general, I suspect that cisgender people should potentially not comment unless we have something extremely pertinent to the actual post to say, however, this could be interpreted as ignoring the thread/post, as I said above. Thus, in the vein of what gogojojo @31 said, what do we do? I generally don’t say anything, but if everyone says nothing, then we don’t have a conversation.

    I do think that the comments/conversations should be more analytical than they are — they are currently very anecdotal and I do not feel as though that advances the conversation. Not that this was super analytical.

  40. Lauren
    Lauren April 14, 2009 at 6:14 pm |

    Thanks, Cara.

    Problem-solving aloud: This isn’t the only issue we’ve have some problems with re: comments, what’s allowed and what isn’t, and privilege blindness, which makes me think we need to a) revamp our commenting policy again, and b) design something that will allow readers to flag comments/commenters that should be considered for heavier moderation. One thing I can count on as a blogger is that when I fail the Feministe community will call me out — and I think perhaps we should set up a way for the community to do so more formally than merely commenting back at the original offender with a rebuke (which of course is welcome and models why the offender is wrong, but still). I imagine that instead of the current model, we could have a system of notification wherein we can shut it down before the blog further devolves from a safe space for people to discuss their experiences.

  41. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 14, 2009 at 6:14 pm |

    another suggestion that i have, and is admittedly something i am trying to work on in my own life, is to be more intentional with language. if you are meaning to have a discussion about cisgender women experience or speaking on a topic from the position of a cisgender woman then call it out. this is helpfully to me in that it also helps me to recognize the ways that my conversations around gender become dominated by cisgender perspectives.

  42. anon
    anon April 14, 2009 at 6:28 pm |

    While I missed much of this particular blow-up, I did catch Renee’s 5% post and that along with the mention of it here got me to thinking…

    Without getting into a numbers game, let me point out that I find this — the relative proportion of posts on a topic about a relative proportion of one’s readers/constituents, or even of the population at large — of interest because I’m a member of another group probably about the same size (maybe larger, depending on who you count; in both groups there’s no clear demarcation between who is or is not, on the edges). Just as I’ve probably never really dealt with a trans person so have many people probably not dealt with someone like me (even if they had dealt with me, they could easily remain unaware of my situation — I see many parallels here).

    Anyway, all that is a prelude to saying as such, I expect to see very few posts about my own issues (which I do believe are issues to pay attention to as there’s quite a bit of intersectionality with feminism, but… I’ve tilted at that long enough). At the same time, I do not experience at all the same vilification that trans people do. I’m thoroughly ignored, not even thought about, completely overlooked. I don’t generate the sort of hatred trans people do (although trust me, there are still plenty of very nasty side effects on our position in society).

    So to me, the numbers game is relatively unimportant. 5% of your posts are about trans issues when you yourself are not trans? That’s one thing. But when a comment thread, especially one about trans people or trans issues, derails into denying, pushing out trans people or attacking them? That’s another.

    I get extraordinarily annoyed at being ignored (and having content that is inaccessible to me frequently posted) but I cannot imagine being told that as a result I wasn’t a woman, or didn’t belong on a feminist forum or what-have-you (although by this point I don’t really self identify as a feminist anymore). So from my perspective it’s the comments and where they go that are pretty important in determining the safety or welcoming of spaces.

    (I must say I do very much appreciate that you still allow unregistered commentators…I’m pushed off pandagon and feministing these days b/c I refuse to register…so again, thanks…)

  43. amandaw
    amandaw April 14, 2009 at 6:39 pm |

    I didn’t comment at first cuz I’ve offered my thanks plenty o times already. This isn’t the place for privileged people to thank privileged people for apologizing for doing privileged-ass things. If transfolk want to thank Cara they can. If they want to criticize they can. That’s not our place as cisfolk.

    And I don’t have much else to say. I’m still watching, learning.

    I honestly think it’s bull that you can’t be expected to make these spaces safe just because people can comment here anonymously. Again: roles. Different people, different places have different roles to fill. Sometimes we need to do a little reaching out, a little educating, a little 101. Sometimes we need to have a conversation that builds off an already-established 101 understanding, a conversation that cannot happen if that 101 is still going on. You can’t build the frame of the house if you can’t even finish the foundation. And that’s still nowhere close to the finished product…

    Sometimes there needs to be a smackdown early in the thread to communicate to commenters that derails will not be tolerated. A stronger response in the beginning makes it easier to clamp down later on without having to stop and explain why derailing is bad (a derail itself).

    Also, if someone is going to get all pissy because they got struck with that clue-by-four, maybe they shouldn’t be thinking so highly of themselves for deigning to give a rat’s ass about somebody else.

  44. amandaw
    amandaw April 14, 2009 at 6:42 pm |

    And you know what. Sometimes, Google doesn’t help you find the 101 answer you’re looking for. That doesn’t mean you’re then clear to barge in and ask someone to educate you. It means you make a mental note of the issue, file it away, shut up and keep reading. You are allowed to fill in those gaps later, you know. You don’t have a *right* to have someone else spoon-feed you.

  45. Esteleth
    Esteleth April 14, 2009 at 6:47 pm |

    Whups, this is why I should refresh the page before commenting. My apologies at contributing to the derail. Feel free to delete my comment @#49.
    For a constructive comment: I think Cara’s comment that people leave behind comments that don’t “mean” anything on posts about anti-ciswoman violence (such as “how horrid!”) but don’t leave them on posts about anti-trans violence is very true. I think really this shows how much I, a ciswoman, and others need to really examine our privilege and prejudices. Why shouldn’t we leave a “how horrid!” comment on the post about Angie Zapata? Because we don’t have anything intelligent to say? Bullshit. There is nothing intelligent to say on the whole mess – a woman is dead due to fucking transphobia.

  46. Whit
    Whit April 14, 2009 at 6:49 pm |

    Emmett, I apologize. I should have couched my statements above with qualifiers like ‘many’ and ‘some’ to make it perfectly clear that I’m not trying to speak for trans people. However, I do comment on here every once in a while.

  47. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 14, 2009 at 6:49 pm |

    i very much agree with cara’s response @47

    if commenters feel comfortable leaving post that simply say”wtf?” for other posts then why not for posts on trans issues. and as opiniontated as the commenters on feministe (and in the feminist blogosphere in general) tend to be in my experience–it seems unlikely to me that only 12 people (since the last time i checked the post) had some kind of meaningful response to the post about angie zapata.

  48. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 14, 2009 at 6:53 pm |

    perhaps part of the issue is believing that we as privileged people can “make” a place feel safe for a marginalized group. the more i think about it the less i feel like such a thing is possible. and the more i feel like what we (those of us who are cisgendered and participate in the feminist blogosphere) can do is try to be consistent about our policies, open to criticism and more explicit and intentional in our work as trans allies. this might never result in a trans person telling us that a space that we moderate or participate in feels safe. but the goal shouldn’t be the cookies anyway.

    (all of this i think was covered in cara’s original post…i’m just trying to get back to it)

  49. voz
    voz April 14, 2009 at 7:03 pm |

    Nicely done. Cara, well spoken, and nicely done.

    Now, the real work begins, and there is plenty of it

    Shall we begin together? All of us?

    What about you, Renee? I have noticed u have been scarce over at my place…

    Folks, we have a helluva lotta work to do, cuz, while I spoke up about trans issues here, woc/poc issues still matter, PWD issues still matter, and the list goes on and on.
    Feminism as its truth is spoken here needs to encompass this.

    This is a real chance to make the feminist presence here answer to all women. Let’s not fuck it up by handing out cookies and rolling over and going to sleep.

    Cara has stepped up to the plate here. The commentariat has some work ahead. And thus, the stage is set.

    what happens next is up to us, now, isn’t it?

  50. piny
    piny April 14, 2009 at 7:04 pm |

    This is not educating yourself. A single internet search of about five seconds’ duration doesn’t count for much; that’s why people use it as the standard for doing anything at all. It’s not due diligence.

    You aren’t “feeding yourself” if you invite yourself to dinner at your neighbor’s table, even if you check your empty fridge first.

    And it isn’t like trans people find the Trans Omnibus Encyclopedia (Educator’s Edition) in their mailboxes at some early point in the process. They look this stuff up just like cis people do. They use libraries, and the internet, and their friends and parents and teachers.

    But they don’t search because they’re curious, or because they start to feel a little rude. They need to know. They get to read every tidbit personally. Each pathologizing, marginalizing, sexist, or straight-up false factoid is presented as a vital clue, an imperative truth–far more useful than instinct or personal experience. They have to sort through all of that crap in order to find the useful stuff, which they are then expected to package for easy cis consumption.

    And when they do, it’s not enough, because it’s not properly indexed on google.

  51. Ivy
    Ivy April 14, 2009 at 7:06 pm |

    @Cara @47 —

    “May it feel inadequate? Certainly. There isn’t much you can say that is adequate. But sometimes, saying something is a hell of a lot better than saying nothing.”

    Ok, fair enough — sometimes it is in fact better to say something than it is to say nothing. For what it’s worth, I don’t say anything on posts about the murder of anyone ever on account of the same thing I said before.

    So, commenters in general are saying the “something” on cis-related threads more often than on trans-related threads. Why that is is something to find out. My hypothesis is that people are a) prejudiced/bigoted and therefore b) unable or unwilling to sympathise with trans people on account of they can’t think of them without sticking the “trans” in front of “people”.

    As for comments being analytical, I mean asking questions/making comments relating to the main point of the post. For example, for the “By Any Other Name” post, rather than going off on a tangent about birth control, et cetera, simply responding to your question you posted at the end of the post. Potentially going further than that, discussing how to deal with people who think like the author of the article and how to avoid that kind of thinking in ourselves.

  52. Ellen
    Ellen April 14, 2009 at 7:20 pm |

    I’d like to get back on track with this discussion. There is no doubt that the particular thread leading to this boycott is one of many that beg the question of the role of the moderator, among many others. This conversation would have been beneficial ages ago, and this is no issue that can be resolved in the space of one thread. It is something that all members who post on this (and similarly the writers for any other site) should agree upon, and uphold. I think it would be great to create a separate area where community members can discuss moderation, unrelated to a specific post.

    One thing to consider- I’ve seen many comments that are obviously/subtly/unknowingly/carelessly/purposefully offensive, yet creating a safe place is not as simple as removing these comments. As many have mentioned, blind privilege (not to mention blatant phobism) in all its forms should be pointed out- and it can often be enlightening to read those posts and the following rebuttals.

    Whether one chooses to boycott or not, this move by voz has created awareness, and raised important questions. My hope is that since you and voz are on speaking terms, that you may learn from her and others to find a way to make this “big blog” as inclusive as it should be.

  53. Renee
    Renee April 14, 2009 at 7:28 pm |

    I think it is important for people to get their 101 on plain and simple. I read trans blogs, I just ordered a trans magazine written by the trans community and I continue to seek out resources so that I can learn what the issues are and advocate effectively. I have a long way to go in my learning and am the first one to admit that but the point is that I try. I think too many people get so caught up in their own issues that they don’t take the time to educate themselves about the issues of other groups and it is narcissistic. When you have privilege it is all to easy to take a subject and turn into a discussion about yourself because you are so used to seeing your issues reflected. I think before you comment if you find that your instinct is to talk about yourself or relate the subject back to yourself, skip commenting altogether. When you can focus on the issues without relating it back to yourself then you know you are ready to engage effectively. No oppressed group should continually have to over the 101 stuff because people refuse to educate themselves or acknowledge their privilege.

  54. piny
    piny April 14, 2009 at 7:38 pm |

    Sure. Sorry again–would it make sense to start a thread specific to that issue? Not “101” but “Why discussions about e.g. phalloplasty and HMO restrictions are not the place for questions about what ‘phalloplasty’ means?” I can do that.

  55. Mireille
    Mireille April 14, 2009 at 8:03 pm |

    There are many great trans 101 posts out there, and many great resources for further information. Perhaps finding a 101 post that you think is a good place for someone to start at the end of the post (for 101 questions, see http://whatever before commenting).

    I have always found Feministe to be a safe place, but like all of us, the moderators are not perfect. Privilege leads to blind spots and as hard as we may try to be constantly vigilant, sometimes we fail. I do it. I was called out by a trans man on a trans thread and I felt like an absolute fool afterwards. But I think the best case scenario, such as what happened here, it leads to us questioning our privilege, apologizing when necessary and hopefully, most importantly, learning something and moving forward.

    It is amazing the visibility that trans issues get on feminist blogs these days compared to even just a year or two ago. We are being recognized and people are learning and I feel very fortunate

  56. Mireille
    Mireille April 14, 2009 at 8:05 pm |

    oops, hit submit before i finished…

    for that.

    I forgot what else I was going to write. Anyway, I will not boycott Feministe, but I will be boycotting Feministing’s comments for a while.

  57. lirpa
    lirpa April 14, 2009 at 9:02 pm |

    Cara: “Molly, that is it, for numerous fucking reasons. Do not comment here again.”

    This has gotten completely out of hand. Since when do we so meanly tell someone that they are not welcome for answering a question?

    She clearly didn’t get the point of the post. That much is obvious, otherwise we wouldn’t be seeing a Trans 101 question from her. But are you serious? Telling a completely, obviously ally-mentality woman that she wasn’t welcome to comment here anymore was ludicrous.

    It is NOT the trans person’s responsibility to educate their more privileged peers. But it is also not the privileged person’s responsibility to assume that they have no right whatsoever discussing, in public spaces, issues that affect them on a day-to-day basis, just because someone else may not be able to relate.

  58. lirpa
    lirpa April 14, 2009 at 9:04 pm |

    I’m sorry, that was supposed to say, “Since when do we so meanly tell someone that they are not welcome for asking a question?”

  59. Lauren
    Lauren April 14, 2009 at 9:16 pm |

    Lirpa, comments are a problem. We need to make a space where people can have conversations without them devolving around someone else’s assholism. If you’ve got some solutions, please help us out.

  60. Holly
    Holly April 14, 2009 at 9:18 pm |

    I don’t have much to say at the moment, but I do want to throw something out there: I do not believe there is a sustainable solution for moderation at a large blog that does not involve some level of commitment and work by the community that forms around that blog. Not just the bloggers, or who ever is writing the original post that day, but everyone who reads and comments as well.

    The kind of change and creation of less hostile / clueless / supremacist / dangerous that I think we are all looking for here isn’t something that can just be the responsibility of bloggers. It’s not just impractical, I also think it’s not a good model of a community, and in the long term it’s a recipe for stratification or failure.

    On top of that, I think policies have to be crafted with the participation of people who are invested in following them and turning them into practices, although there you could certainly say that people responsible for maintaining a blog and seeding it with content should take a more active role.

    So here’s the thing: anyone who wants to see better spaces on blogs for oppressed and marginalized communities had better be willing to step up and work for that too. That includes pushing your own boundaries of comfort, making mistakes, and all the rest. It also means helping to cut off derails, and answering questions, and not letting statements go unchallenged, and more. I don’t think bloggers can really serve as effective police at blogs this size. I don’t think we want to hire people to do that for us, either. There are enough police already in the real world. So be prepared to make more citizen’s arrests.

  61. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 14, 2009 at 9:33 pm |

    Another is that people leave comments all the time saying things like “absolutely disgusting” and “I don’t know what’s wrong with this world” and “my thoughts are with her family and I hope for justice” etc on all kinds of threads about all different kinds of topics. Including threads about the murder of cis women.

    For me its more about the fact that I feel (as a ciswoman) complicit in the violence against transpersons. My privilege as a ciswoman comes at the expense of transpersons. But more directly I call myself a feminist (most days) even though many others calling themselves feminists use hate speech and exclude transpersons from critical resources (like DV centers and rape crisis centers).

    So what right do I have to be outraged on behalf of Angie? When I can still walk into a public bathroom without someone giving me shit, wanting to legislate my access, or that access being questioned by the fundies AND supposed feminists….

    It feels like it would be similar to some MRA coming on feministe and offering his sympathy for a woman who was stalked and killed by her husband during a custody battle…

  62. Cola
    Cola April 14, 2009 at 9:42 pm |

    Without reading the comments, I was really shocked by that graphic. I’ve always felt that Feministing is, intentionally or not, pretty exclusively focused on young white het/cis women, but part of the reason I love Feministe is the broad spectrum of women’s issues it covers, especially trans. Maybe those articles just stand out to me because I tend to ignore, intentionally or not, all the articles about stories I’ve already read at Feministing.

    It’s good you guys are taking this seriously. I personally think a boycott is a little extreme, given the scope of the problem, but if it was what was needed to bring attention to the larger issue, I can’t really find fault with it, either.

  63. ElleDee
    ElleDee April 14, 2009 at 10:17 pm |

    You guys clearly need a volunteer moderating force. You will always have a little issue with biased moderators, but if they had clear guidelines with boundaries and had to work by consensus that could make things more fair?

  64. Renee
    Renee April 14, 2009 at 10:25 pm |

    @VOZ what you don’t see in commenting does not mean that I am not reading. As I said earlier up thread, though I advocate as loudly as I can when I feel I have enough education to deal with an issue, I do not feel that it is my place to interject myself into any conversation until I have done the appropriate 101. The same rules that I ask people to perform on anti-racism, are the same rules that apply to me whenever I approach an issue in which I cannot speak from an informed position. I learned earlier this year when I made some comments about “passing” just how far I have to go. It is not my intent to ’cause harm or be disrespectful to a group in which I hope to be an ally to and therefore; until I am convinced that I can do so without causing more harm by an unawareness of my privilege, I will continue to “sponge” quietly.

    I really do believe that the only way to make change is if people commit to doing the work necessary. It takes time and commitment and sometimes even facing the ugly in you but it is the only way to make change. I don’t think individual bloggers can make a large change other than making sure whenever possible they try and cover trans issues and certainly deleting transphobic commentary. They can try and guide a community but no one can force anyone to acknowledge a privilege that they do not want to own. It is my hope however, that if more cisgender bloggers write about trans issues that no matter where people turn they will be forced to confront their privilege simply by the sheer number of the posts. I also like the idea of opening up spaces to allow trans bloggers to tell their own stories on cis blogs because no matter how much we educate ourselves, these are your stories, your lives and no one can explain or tell it better than you. This is part of the reason I have an open guest posting policy. I know that I cannot speak as expert on every subject but sharing my space with others means that more topics can get covered in a more real and in depth way. So yeah, if I had to say solutions: more posts about trans rights period and allowing more trans bloggers access to as many cis blogs as possible to tell their own stories.

  65. Claire
    Claire April 14, 2009 at 10:28 pm |

    I don’t really see the utility of a volunteer moderator force, ElleDee. I think the original posters are totally competent to moderate their own comment threads, and they (seem to) have the time to do it, too. If the time issue becomes a problem for them, or Feministe brings on bloggers who don’t bother to follow comments on their own posts, then I could see needing dedicated moderators… but really, in the current situation, it sounds like a recipe for trouble.

  66. ataralas
    ataralas April 14, 2009 at 10:36 pm |

    There are a bunch of trans 101, racism 101, ableism 101, etc resources on the web. Perhaps one thing that might help is to designate certian threads “not 101″ and have some disclaimer at the bottom such as, “This thread is not open to 101-style questions about topic X. For a primer on topic X, see resource Y.” Then if people derail, as Molly did on this thread, there is literally no excuse.

    It might be a little more work on the part of the bloggers to start with, but as issues get addressed, one imagines a little library of these warnings will be built up and then it’s a matter of copy-paste.

  67. denelian
    denelian April 14, 2009 at 10:37 pm |

    lets see if i can express myself without hurting anyone, or offending anyone… i think this is the appropriate space, because we are speaking of how to improve things, right? i hope. this is not meant as a “what about the…”, i am totally serious and hope it is taken that was

    to a large extend, *I* at least, use Feministe to *learn* about other women who are in different situations. while i agree 100% that this should be a safe space for transwomen/people (and everyone) i have myself been attacked randomly here. that was a directed thing, and its something that is *rare* – but it happens.
    Trans issues are vitaly(sp?) important, i know that, i get that; trans people are attacked and villified MUCH more openly than cis-people.
    so, safe place, absolutely. open place. constructive place. GOOD place.
    all of that makes sense – but there are a *LOT* of people who don’t know everything, and who – like me – come here to learn more. Molly was out of line, but after a 101 base education, where do we go? i read a few trans blogs, but a lot of times i am missing something – that level between 101 basics and the graduate level, to stretch an already sketchy metaphor. so i come here, to womanist, a few smaller blogs, because they aren’t graduate level yet.
    does that make sense? i WANT EVERYONE to be safe and comfortable (and please dear gods don’t think that i think all any transperson should do is educate other transpeople – i like to think that cis-people can educate other cis-people on a whole hell of a lot of it. thats a good chunk of *why* i come *here* – to exchange these ideas, to learn these things).

    i think the only real idea that i have is an expansion of the earlier “scheduled” posts thing – if you are going to have 2 “graduate level” trans posts a week, that delve deeply into trans issues, could you also have 2 “mid-grade” posts that are more educational? i don’t know, really, because i am making up random amounts… but for people like me, who have the basic 101 (i hope! i try, anyway) a mid-level set would be good.

  68. voz
    voz April 14, 2009 at 10:41 pm |


    I was just sayin I never see u over at my place.

    Whether u realise it or not, we’re human…and welcome guests into our homes, online or not.

    We needn’t talk trans, but we can if u like. I ahve a lot more going on in my life than just being trans, or Mexican descent or a woman.

    Door’s open anytime u like. I suspect other trans women feel the same. Come as you are, and be prepared to relax and relate.

  69. ElleDee
    ElleDee April 14, 2009 at 10:46 pm |

    Claire, I guess I was thinking that time is an issue on larger blogs (I honestly have no idea how bloggers here can keep up with so much stuff and have real jobs and lives too), especially if some kind of new system were implemented.

    But if time isn’t an issue then I agree with you.

  70. Joan Kelly
    Joan Kelly April 14, 2009 at 11:24 pm |

    “You aren’t “feeding yourself” if you invite yourself to dinner at your neighbor’s table, even if you check your empty fridge first.”

    My new favorite analogy. Thanks, piny.

  71. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 15, 2009 at 12:02 am |

    would it be effective for commenters who see posts being derailed be to merely post an @#whatever DERAILING CONVERSATION? and if like in the cause with Molly and a link and not respond to it any further. just point out the derailment and keep it moving.

    AND THEN WE GET BACK TO THE CONVERSATION OF HOW CAN WE CREATE A MORE TRANS INCLUSIVE SPACE IN THE FEMINIST BLOGOSPHERE (and not for example how cis privilege is making it hard for us to do so)

    -so i see us saying that perhaps a more stringent moderation of trans issue posts is necessary.
    -also i see discussion of intentionally writing posts that are aimed audiences at different levels of awareness with trans issues and labeling those conversations

    what kind of things can we do as commentators: one thing i advocate is educating ourselves on inclusive language (pronouns and terminology) and then calling each other out about offensive language (for example saying s/he when referring to a transwoman to me is offensive because it deligitimatizes her stated identity.)

  72. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 15, 2009 at 12:06 am |

    also this is a community where the commenters are usually pretty awesome at linking to other resources for more information. however, i see that happen less in comments on trans issues (though to be up front, I also am less likely to go through all of the comments on trans-related posts because of disappointment with the level of engagement).

    so could we say that there is a kind of unstated goal that we (as commenters) start linking back to more conversations being had by trans community about issues in trans related posts?

  73. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 15, 2009 at 12:10 am |

    @#60 i personally really support having more complex discussions of policy and politics related trans issues because i think that is how this blog often works. when all of the discussions were happening about the conflict in gaza the posts were long, complex and definitely (IMO) not necessarily 101. but even though i was at a 101 level i was still able to engage. and i was forced to do a lot of off site research to follow parts of the conversation…but i learned so much more in the process because of needing to take that extra step.

  74. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 15, 2009 at 12:14 am |

    i would also like to see posts that look at trans issues through the lenses of race and nationality. one of my favorite trans bloggers Monica over at Transgriot does a pretty awesome job of blogging about international trans community as well as on how trans community is accepted in different religious and cultural communities (quick plug: Transgriot is the shit and if you’re not reading Monica’s work already you should be!)

  75. Borea
    Borea April 15, 2009 at 12:23 am |

    Thank you very much, Cara, for this apology. Though it saddens me to see such a messy state of affairs, I am heartened to see trans-people like myself are still noticed (and cared about) by the feminist community. Discussions and debates can get pretty darn messy, but it’s better than not discussion at all!

  76. Hump day roundup — Confabulous
    Hump day roundup — Confabulous April 15, 2009 at 7:15 am |

    […] readers to boycott Feministe and Feministing over their treatment of trans issues. There is a very thoughtful response at Feministe. […]

  77. Jadey
    Jadey April 15, 2009 at 7:16 am |

    Re: comment moderation and its role in creating a safe space

    I checked out the “Comments” link at the top of the page and read through the moderation policy.

    First suggestion: maybe call it “Comment Moderation Policy” instead of just “Comments”? I know that I didn’t read it the first time I visited here because I didn’t realize what it was (I was also new to big discussion blogs and didn’t know to seek it out, so that was my bad.)

    Suggestion 2: The moderation guidelines spell out the general parameters of, “Don’t be a jerk,” but part of privilege is not having to be aware that you’re acting like a jerk, so perhaps being more specific about what common derailing or silencing tactics look like?

    There’s also the option of making post-specific moderation policies, as this post has. But that runs the risk of a) sending the mssage that other threads are not going to be safe-spaces, which marginalizes commenters with a stake in these issues and hinders their participation in all aspects of the site, and b) having commenters who are not familiar with stronger moderation on this site fail to recognize the different approach in these threads and derail threads with challenges to the moderation (which I think we’ve already seen in this thread).

    Finally, as per “volunteer forces”, I think that the OPs can and do benefit from community support in managing the flow of discussion (especially as it seems that some of these threads can become unexpectedly overwhelming), and I also think that this kind of volunteer effort at course-correcting and protection tends to arise naturally when people know the rules, know the issues, and have a stake in the conversation.

  78. JessSnark
    JessSnark April 15, 2009 at 9:24 am |

    Re: “volunteer forces” helping in the comments sections
    Shakesville seems to do a very good job of this. I’m sure it’s a lot of work for Melissa and her co-bloggers as well, because they have to be in comments setting the tone and emphasizing that it’s supposed to be a safe space, but I do see a lot of the commenters there stepping up to explain why something is not OK to say, or to direct people elsewhere for further info. It is probably harder to get a large enough number of commenters to do this on trans-related posts because lots of cis people will feel unqualified to speak on it (I often feel that way, anyway). But I and others can at least do the basics, saying things like “hey, maybe you don’t realize this, but what you just said falls into this category of slurs that malign trans people. Please check out this link to a trans 101 blog before commenting here again.”

  79. Jadey
    Jadey April 15, 2009 at 9:30 am |

    Just something else I noticed while wandering around other blogs, but some places have a mini-version of the moderation policy right above the comment box, e.g., “Stay relevant and on-topic”, so there’s another possibility on that front.

    (Clearly I have a one-track mind!)

  80. amandaw
    amandaw April 15, 2009 at 10:24 am |

    moving my comment to the other thread — apologies.

  81. Julie
    Julie April 15, 2009 at 12:33 pm |

    (removed by author)

  82. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 15, 2009 at 1:59 pm |

    so a lot of interesting stuff has been said about commenting and moderation but less on specifically addressing transwomen feeling that this is not a safe space.

    the educational post has had some good initiatives like creating the wiki (though it was also posted that there are trans ran blogs that have done some of this work. when i get home i’m definitely going to try to link to more of those posts at the wiki.)

    and piny did a post that had to do (from my perspective) a more advanced level discussion of trans related issues.

    but what else?

  83. amandaw
    amandaw April 15, 2009 at 2:06 pm |

    i dunno. cuz for me, wrt disability, the hostile comment space is honestly the biggest problem. thus, solution: crack down on comments. i’d love to see a regular poster with a disability, but that’s another thing altogether.

    what else is it that makes you feel uncomfortable w/ feministe? is there anything else in the main posts themselves? anything besides education-type stuff in the comments?…

  84. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 15, 2009 at 2:15 pm |

    personally, i think part of the issue is ciswomen feminist being more conscious and intentional when we make posts that are commentary on gender dynamics to engage more specifically with transpeople.

    i for example am working to a post on queer hip-hop feminism that discusses the labeling of masculine female bodies in hip-hop as butch lesbians instead of allowing for the possibilities of other kinds of gender variant identities.

    often people blog from their passions (i for one blog about music and pop culture most often) but i think its possible to try to be intentional about occasionally posting about how your passions directly intersect with trans issues. its my way of posting about trans issues on a less theoretical level (transphobia is wrong) and dealing with real people and real situations more.

  85. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 15, 2009 at 2:27 pm |

    @amandaw i think what makes me most uncomfortable (and not about feministe in particular but the feminist blogosphere in general that is not invested in trans issues) is that often the discussions center on theoretical discussions of transidentity and gender theory and not about actual events that are happening in trans community and/or things that are happening to trans people. for example the angie zapata post is on a specific even and about real people and a specific situation. or talking about pam jones, a transwoman rapper who was recently beaten and possibly sexually assaulted. or talking about trans activists and the work they are currently doing. posting reviews of trans related films, books, and etc.

  86. little light
    little light April 15, 2009 at 2:36 pm |

    To add to gogojojo’s point, I’d just like to point out that we just lost another gender-noncomforming/trans person of color to murder in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

    It never stops.

  87. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 15, 2009 at 2:58 pm |

    Maybe we need to be able to break blog comments into more than one thread. Like a thread for “Definitional questions” (personally, I don’t see “what’s cis?” to be 101 so much as just a question about terminology; cis is a relatively recent term, isn’t it? One could be educated about trans issues, but not know it. Although clearly that wasn’t what was going on. But the nice thing about “What does X mean?” is that usually you can aswer in 20 words or less.) and a thread for “Advanced analysis” and a thread for “trans people only” or whatever.

    I know that’s sort of what Barry wants on Alas… he’s experimented several times with having one thread open for feminist discussion, and another to all comers.

    I don’t know. Alas’s comment section is way, way smaller than Feministe’s, and we’re a much smaller blog. But moderation is still a thorny tangle, and I understand it was moreso in the past when the blog was bigger, before I got involved.

    I think there are a lot of catch 22s. A moderator’s active attention is not all that’s needed to keep comment threads working. I guess as Holly says, at some point the responsibility rests in the community as well.

  88. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 15, 2009 at 3:01 pm |

    But just to add — it’s nice to be reading a mod discussion in a place where teh fact that large segments of the population *do* feel alienated and unsafe is something that the community takes seriously. One of the places I’m nominally responsible for helping to moderate doesn’t feel that way, and it’s… amazing what a first step “we should be able to have safe spaces for people here” is.

  89. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 15, 2009 at 3:35 pm |

    To add to gogojojo’s point, I’d just like to point out that we just lost another gender-noncomforming/trans person of color to murder in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

    And even there, the discussion over at Pam’s House Blend bugs me because rather than talking about how to keep the police honest on this one, or about the possibility that other gay/queer/trans people in that community might be targets, the focus was on pronouns and whether a regional queer news blogger exercised due diligence in reporting Imaje née Jimmy’s death.

    But shit, this is turning into a very bad day, and I can’t wait until it’s over and I can spend an evening gibbering in the corner.

  90. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 15, 2009 at 3:44 pm |

    so not to be rude, but there is a new thread up to discuss commenting policy Yet More on Comments Thread.

    One of the criticism discussed in the post above is that it always seems like discussion about trans issue get derailed by comments on other issues. And while I get the the conversation on commenting is meant to help talk about inclusive space its kind of taking the focus away from talking about how this is all specifically related to there being a transpeople (and allies) boycott of feministe. I’ve been trying hint at derailment but now that a new thread exist it seems that its time to be blunt because I don’t want transpeople who might be watching this post to see the same thing we just said we are sorry for happening all over again when trying to create a solution.

  91. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 15, 2009 at 3:48 pm |

    And wow my loose grip on punctuation and the shift key is showing. Hopefully that was all still coherent.

  92. Jadey
    Jadey April 15, 2009 at 4:12 pm |

    Thank you for pointing the way to the new thread, gogojojo.

    I’ve been trying to think of an answer to your question — to this post’s question — since my last comment, but I am finding my ignorance overwhelming. I just want to say that my silence isn’t apathy. I really want to know how to make a safe space for trans people specifically, here and everywhere. I’ve said more than my piece in this thread, and I’m going to work on my listening skills now.

    Well, except I will say that an overall greater consciousness of the presence of transpeople as ubiquitous and complex could help. By which I mean rather than treating any post/thread not specifically labelled as trans-related as cis-by-default (I’m going to implicate myself in this kind of mindset, but I don’t think I’m alone), instead considering a broad range of possible experiences in relation to the topic of interest, which goes hand-in-hand with educating oneself–applying the knowledge gained. I can’t think of specific examples because, well, privilege, but I would bet the house on this being an issue here and everywhere.

  93. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 15, 2009 at 7:38 pm |

    Kristen J.,

    For me its more about the fact that I feel (as a ciswoman) complicit in the violence against transpersons. My privilege as a ciswoman comes at the expense of transpersons. But more directly I call myself a feminist (most days) even though many others calling themselves feminists use hate speech and exclude transpersons from critical resources (like DV centers and rape crisis centers).

    So what right do I have to be outraged on behalf of Angie? When I can still walk into a public bathroom without someone giving me shit, wanting to legislate my access, or that access being questioned by the fundies AND supposed feminists….

    It feels like it would be similar to some MRA coming on feministe and offering his sympathy for a woman who was stalked and killed by her husband during a custody battle…

    This is some pretty deep cis guilt – and honestly, I think it’s really a really stupid thing to say. You feel that your privilege makes you complicit in anti-trans violence, which means that it would be wrong of you to speak out against it? What?

    How about this: If more cis people spoke out against violence against trans people – against the murder of trans people – whenever it happened, maybe that’d contribute to it becoming less acceptable.

    Your position here is pretty damned privileged – you have the luxury of not saying anything at all, and whether you think it’s because it has nothing to do with you or you think that just by being cis you’re complicit in a system that destroys trans lives is irrelevant – the end result is the same. You choose to say and do nothing to stop it.

    Your guilt about this doesn’t matter. Your actions do. What you choose to say and do about it. And if you really truly feel bad about the idea of being complicit in a system that justifies violence against trans people, the best thing you can do is speak out against it.

  94. Lisa Harney
    Lisa Harney April 15, 2009 at 7:57 pm |


    If you feel like getting defensive about the above comment, please don’t. Walk away and think about how if you’re concerned about being complicit with a violent system how silence serves to increase, not mitigate, your complicity.

    Don’t make this discussion about your feelings. Think about the fact that you said you’d rather be silent if some of the women in this discussion suffered violence because you have privilege over them, and think about what that means to see that when you’re one of those women.

  95. ThickRedGlasses
    ThickRedGlasses April 15, 2009 at 9:35 pm |

    I don’t think comments made by strangers on the Internet are the blog author’s responsibility. Instead of boycotting the bloggers that report on trans issues (however infrequently), it makes oodles more sense to comment to the people who offend you.

    And if people want there to be more posts about trans issues on major feminist blogs, shoot the authors an e-mail about the stories. Share your stories and your blog posts with the major feminist blogs that get more traffic so that the stories get more exposure. Otherwise, you’re just keeping these stories to yourself and wondering why nobody has heard about them.

  96. Claire
    Claire April 15, 2009 at 9:46 pm |

    Maybe there’ll be some outrage left over for Bitch Ph.D.

  97. ThickRedGlasses
    ThickRedGlasses April 15, 2009 at 10:51 pm |

    Cara, I agree with you. I was going to add that people have to send stories in because it’s impossible to find all of these stories on one’s own. I didn’t mean to imply that ALL of the stories have to come to you. It’s a combination of doing research and getting tips. I could understand if Queen Emily and Voz had submitted ideas and posts to Feministe and Feministing or asked to guest-blog and were denied, but that’s not their issue at all. They assume that the authors on both blogs don’t care without trying to understand the situation.

  98. piny
    piny April 15, 2009 at 11:38 pm |

    And if people want there to be more posts about trans issues on major feminist blogs, shoot the authors an e-mail about the stories. Share your stories and your blog posts with the major feminist blogs that get more traffic so that the stories get more exposure. Otherwise, you’re just keeping these stories to yourself and wondering why nobody has heard about them.

    But trans issues–stories about splENDA, transphobic hate crimes, transitioning minors, autogynephilia, trans celebrities and public figures, etc.–get a fair amount of mainstream coverage, even if it isn’t very smart. When I posted regularly, many of my trans-related posts were sourced from the news sites like the one for the SF Chronicle–or other mainstream feminist blogs, even. These stories aren’t hard to follow. And I don’t think that people are complaining because ALL of the trans-related articles on the internet aren’t being aggregated and commented on here at Feministe.

    The initial homework here isn’t current familiarity or even insight–it’s interest. That’s what makes these stories illegible, and that’s why bloggers have such a hard time saying anything about them. Trans bloggers don’t need to set up a special feed for the clueless. They can point out the bias where it exists. I think we should be able to work from there.

    And I’m not sure what situation needs to be understood: a blog is the sum of its parts. Some of us might have valid personal reasons for posting less or not posting about particular things, but Feministe doesn’t have an intentional self. It should be taken as read. I don’t expect anything different.

  99. Julie
    Julie April 15, 2009 at 11:55 pm |

    Sorry about the derailing comment – I’ll move it to the other thread momentarily. (Can any commenter move/delete their comments? If not, let me know and I’ll move any that their authors want me to.)

    In terms of creating safe spaces for trans folk, I’ll add on to gogojojo’s point:

    what kind of things can we do as commentators: one thing i advocate is educating ourselves on inclusive language (pronouns and terminology) and then calling each other out about offensive language (for example saying s/he when referring to a transwoman to me is offensive because it deligitimatizes her stated identity.)

    by saying that cis people can take note of when we feel compelled to comment and when we don’t. Maybe keep a written tally next to your computer – visuals can help highlight a pattern. If you’re the type of person who comments when you aren’t necessarily adding a new idea to the discussion (say, just expressing support or outrage), keep track of when you feel the urge to do that and when you don’t. Write down when you feel like you need to call out an ugly or ignorant comment and when you don’t – and try to do so more often, so that trans women can see that they have allies sticking up for them. (I know it’s something I wish would happen more when comments are, say, anti-Semitic, so I’ll step up to the plate more from now on.)

  100. denelian
    denelian April 16, 2009 at 12:34 am |

    thank you :)
    i have noted that the in-between levels of knowledge of *most* things seem to be the hardest to come by (is this just me?)
    gods know i am less than perfect, but i *NEVER* want to make anyone feel that i am helping to create a hostile space.
    i really hope that we can learn from each other. thats sort of the point of this blog, isn’t it?
    to be honest, i am now really excited about the prospect of learning more.

    on the other hand… i tend to ignore trollish comments (of any flavor) that aren’t directed at me. Lisa has a really good point that all my (or anyone’s) silence does is implicitly condone those sorts of actions. i’m not the person she was writing to, but i take her comments to heart – i need to work harder at policing (if that’s the right word) the space i am in so that everyone feels safe and welcome. i think that maybe this could be added as a commenting policy, if you (the Bloggers here at Feministe) like it – the social responsibilty to tell trollish people they are being trollish. a policy that encourages commenters to remind other commenters that everyone here is equally important. if that makes sense (i never know how well i am explaining anything, my pain meds really fog it up. i’m working on that sigh)

  101. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 16, 2009 at 3:24 am |


    I hear your concern about silencing. I didn’t feel that “yesing” in this context was actually supportive of trans rights. But if you and others feel that offering even a minimal comment on trans posts is useful, I will definitely start doing so.

    I thought of it as respectful in same context those bloggers who specifically indicated they do not want to hear from a privileged group when talking about the shit they have to put up with (or in some cases ever). They’ve said that offering sympathy in that situation is condescending and disrespectful and they prefer actions from their allies rather than empty words. I guess I may have taken that perspective too far.

    I certainly didn’t mean my comment to be about speaking out about violence against trans persons generally, but more about the reason I don’t always post sympathetic comments in response to personal tragedy. In other spaces/places including I do speak out about violence (and discrimination) against transpersons, we donate our time and our money to trying to do what we can to make things better.

  102. Marti Abernathey
    Marti Abernathey April 16, 2009 at 5:41 am |

    like this.

    I’ll say what I said over at

    What bothers me most is that these are the same kinds of arguments that were going on three years ago. I stopped frequenting these blogs, but it wasn’t a boycott. I just don’t really dig going into places that I don’t feel valued, listened to, or accepted. I don’t even know that I’d call myself a feminist anymore. I do believe in equality, but these kind of posts make me feel like online feminism isn’t about equality but another hierarchy of power. I don’t see things changing by engaging in online discussions, so I won’t boycott. A boycott suggests that I’ll go back at some point. I doubt I ever will.

    Frankly, the only reason why I’m back here is because of a Google alert. I’m glad to see the dialogue, but I’m not sure if it matters. I know my comments about the I Blame The Patriarchy thread are a bit harsh, but IMO, it’s the difference between racism in the 1950’s and today. Back then it was open and blatant, but today it’s quiet and dismissive. But the bottom line is the same. We are dismissed in our experience as women, and more centrally as transwomen. Until that changes, I don’t see the climate of trans-ignorance/transphobia changing.

  103. Donna
    Donna April 16, 2009 at 7:22 am |

    Claire at 107, thanks for raising my blood pressure a couple dozen notches this morning. Holy fuck! What the hell is wrong with Bitch, PhD? I guess this only goes to prove that you can have a PhD and still be the most ignorant dumbfuck asscramp on the internet.

  104. Mandolin
    Mandolin April 16, 2009 at 7:56 am |

    “I know my comments about the I Blame The Patriarchy thread are a bit harsh, but IMO, it’s the difference between racism in the 1950’s and today.”

    You know, I was pleasantly surprised — I was over at IBTP when that stuff came up in another recent thread. I called it out, and sent Twisty an email (I have no idea how she feels about that stuff, but it was the best I felt I could do), and then felt terrified for several days about going back. When I did go back, I found that other commenters had backed up the “transphobia is not okay” wagon, that Twisty had done so herself, and that the original poster had apologized.

    The BitchPhD post is also interesting in that almost all the comments on the post are condemning the obviously problematic behavior. I was surprised to see how few people supported it or claimed not to see the transphobia.

    Not that the feminist blogosphere deserves any cookies — but I was happy to see those things. The quick slapping-down of transphobic comments seems, to me, to be different from how I would have expected thing to go when I first started commenting on feminist blogs.

  105. queen emily
    queen emily April 16, 2009 at 8:00 am |


    Just to clarify, I’m not boycotting Feministe or Feministing. For I am a whole different person to Voz.

    The reason is not massive fluffy bunny feelings for either, but that I refuse to be defined, even reactively, by cis feminism. I understand Voz’s point, but I don’t think it’s a good use of my energies.

    And the issue isn’t a personal lack of access to big blogs–that’s just another version of yer just jealous. There’s been a few trans guest bloggers as well as Holly. I’m sure I could get a guest post if I wanted (I don’t particularly).

    It’s that when trans women’s rights are under discussion, real life rights at stake, many cis women feel quite entitled to say “I don’t care. Let’s talk about birth control, or being vegan, or how this makes *me* feel.” And that’s bullshit, pure and simple.

  106. little light
    little light April 16, 2009 at 10:10 am |

    I know I’m a whole different person from Queen Emily, but

    Just to clarify, I’m not boycotting Feministe or Feministing. For I am a whole different person to Voz.

    The reason is not massive fluffy bunny feelings for either, but that I refuse to be defined, even reactively, by cis feminism. I understand Voz’s point, but I don’t think it’s a good use of my energies.

    And the issue isn’t a personal lack of access to big blogs–that’s just another version of yer just jealous. There’s been a few trans guest bloggers as well as Holly. I’m sure I could get a guest post if I wanted (I don’t particularly).

    It’s that when trans women’s rights are under discussion, real life rights at stake, many cis women feel quite entitled to say “I don’t care. Let’s talk about birth control, or being vegan, or how this makes *me* feel.” And that’s bullshit, pure and simple.

    I’m’a just sign onto that.

    I avoid Feministing already as a radical woman of color. I haven’t dropped by there in quite some time. Same with Pandagon. I just don’t bother. I have better things to do and read with my time and energy and I choose not to focus them on folks who have no intention of being held accountable when I could be more constructive somewhere else. I’ve withdrawn a lot from most of the mainstream “big” blogs not because I’m even consumed with rage any more, but because it’s become clear that it’s just taxing with little benefit–so I focus where it does my community more good, in, for instance, the RWOC portion of the blogosphere, and with groups like Speak! who I consider family, Raven’s Eye, and with on-the-ground efforts like the Allied Media Conference. I’d already disengaged, so this boycott doesn’t really sway me.

    As to Feministe? I have much higher hopes. No, it’s not perfect, but at Feministe I’ve seen genuine, sincere attempts and work at being accountable. (Let’s leave aside that there are also people here I’ve worked with closely, like, and enjoy. It’s beside the point right now.) I don’t consider it “safe space,” but as someone so very cleverly pointed out, even my own blog and inbox aren’t “safe space.” There is no such thing as safe space, just safER space, sometimes, for a minute here and there. When you’re colonized, when you’re in an oppressive system that you’re forced to internalize to survive, even the inside of your own head isn’t safe space. But at least, when I’ve seen Jill or Cara or Lauren or whoever called out on privilege, they acknowledge they’ve done something wrong, publically own it, and solicit feedback for how they can improve. They give a shit. I can’t magically trust that they’ll never fuck up–that would be a stupid thing for me to do–but I’ve learned to trust that they’ll listen when I say so and do their damnedest to be respectful, and I value that in allies. I still don’t always have the energy to duke it out in here any more, but it means that at least I think those arguments do some good when I do engage, and that matters.

    Compare to BitchPhD just now: when called out on the transphobic joke, her response was “I knew someone would say that” (and didn’t care and presented it as something everyone should hear anyway, and fuck being too PC, it’s a hard joke to avoid, ha ha.) That’s someone who has no desire to be accountable, who knows exactly what she’s doing and who she may be hurting and doesn’t give a shit and won’t hear criticism–even if one of y’all forces her to issue an apology to save face, it’ll be the classic “I’m not a racist I’m not a transphobe I’m not a misogynist and I’m sorry if you chose to be offended” kind of “apology” we see every day. Whatever apology y’all get out of her will be because it costs her personally too much not to apologize, not because she’s actually changed her mind or plans on stopping saying and thinking these things outside the more public eye. It won’t be because she thinks she was wrong and wants to correct an oversight–she knew what she was doing. It’ll be just like the “It’s A Jungle Out There” mess. The only real benefits of the callout are a: we trans people get to be aware that other people aren’t silently signing on to this, and b: people who do make honest mistakes and want to be accountable might see it and learn from it, plus c: maybe at least people who don’t want to be accountable will at least not repeat the mistake because they don’t want to be criticized and have it affect their bottom line. It’s not about BitchPhD, it’s about benefit to bystanders–which is, yes, worth it, but we ought to be conscious of that.

    I don’t want what I do defined by what cis feminism or white feminism or whatever. It’s–sorry to say–not about y’all. It’s about where what I can do does the most good. I’m not boycotting Feministing or BitchPhD or Pandagon because I don’t think it’ll do any good–they have no desire to be accountable to me and mine and I don’t call them out for the same reasons I don’t try to change minds over at Free Republic. It’s a waste of my energy when I could be talking to people who actually do want to learn something and teach something reciprocally. (My energy. This is no comment on what anyone else should or shouldn’t do.) I’m not boycotting Feministe because I don’t think it’ll do any good, either–privileged people will not stop making mistakes, and these particular privileged people are already inclined to listen when called out, and I don’t think my boycotting is going to have a positive effect on either of those factors. I don’t trust Feministe to be safe space, but I trust it to be safER, a little, at least to the point where it’s worth arguing sometimes.

    Maybe that’s having friendships with many of the bloggers here blinding me; maybe those personal relationships make them artificially more inclined to listen to me as an individual and don’t represent a real trend, or whatever; maybe I’m inclined to give slack to people I have warm feelings toward; I don’t know and it’s not really up to me to say. But I do see people like Jack and Holly treated not as tokens but as equals here, from what I can tell. I see people respecting me as an equal when I’ve guest-posted here. I do see humility and respect across the lines, and an attempt to work on inevitable screwups. Anyone’s welcome to think I’m wrong, but from where I stand–for me alone–that’s enough for me to stick around.

    In the end, you just have to figure out who and what you love and stick by them. It’s just gardening. You nurture what you can, weed what encroaches on it, and recognize you can’t garden the whole world and that maybe sometimes you can get something growing in the fallow plot over there with help, but it’s going to take a very long time to break up the cement and pollution in the empty lot next door so it’s ready to plant in. So you’ll swing a pickaxe there once a month, and put your real focus on the ground you know is fertile enough to get you some vegetables to eat the rest of the time. It’s priorities. It’s triage. Call it selfish, call it naive, whichever. Eventually all these healthy gardens will grow together, little by little, and it’ll be a stronger movement that way in the end.

  107. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 16, 2009 at 10:41 am |

    Can I preface this with a caveat that I’m writing from a place of considerable fear and anger at the moment?

    Personally, I’m feeling really disappointed in feminist and political blogs in general this week. Imaje née Jimmy McCollough was murdered earlier this week, in what was probably a hatecrime that sits at the intersection of racism, transphobia and homophobia. I feel very depressed and upset about this because it happened in a city very similar in demographics and economics to my own. And meanwhile, almost all of my blog subscriptions are putting up hundreds of words on lol teabaggers. I passed the news on to the livejournal communities I’m a part of, but I’ve no seen it spread beyond there.

    I know that these discussions are important to have, but I feel that sometimes the weblog community gets so caught up in meta-commentary and criticism that activism and awareness needs get lost in the shuffle. And I really wonder why the outrage and connections to activism kick in with some crimes of violence and not others.

  108. mk
    mk April 16, 2009 at 10:45 am |

    Can I just co-sign everything little light says, like, ever? Srsly. Your last paragraph is particularly wonderful, little light.

    I’m not sure if the rest of my comment belongs here or in one of the other two threads (and I apologize if it really belongs in the latter), but here goes:

    The deafening cricket sounds on some comment threads–particularly those dealing with trans* issues, but often other kinds as well–is a big problem.

    And based on what some folks have said here about not commenting on trans* posts, it sounds like what we’re really saying is “I’m more worried about my feelings than my education.” (I say “we” because I count myself complicit here, particularly when it comes to threads about race.)

    Being unwilling to comment on a topic because you don’t know enough, or fear saying the wrong thing or getting called out, or because you’ve seen other commenters get “mean” when they call people out is a shitty attitude.

    And it means you’re still making other people do all the work.

    Sometimes we have very good reasons for not commenting on threads that we know a lot about and that affect us very personally. I know sometimes I shy away from posts about anti-trans* violence because grief on its own is already exhausting. I spend enough time wondering which of my loved ones will be next–sometimes I have to decide that weighing in on the internets can’t be a priority.

    I also worry–often–that I’m speaking for instead of with, because, as a gender-variant cis woman the taste of transphobia I get in my daily life doesn’t mean I’m trans*, and doesn’t make me qualified to speak on trans* issues in place of my brothers and sisters who are the real authorities.

  109. little light
    little light April 16, 2009 at 10:55 am |

    know sometimes I shy away from posts about anti-trans* violence because grief on its own is already exhausting. I spend enough time wondering which of my loved ones will be next–sometimes I have to decide that weighing in on the internets can’t be a priority.


    CBrachyrhynchos, too, I am totally feeling you. It hits hard and it’s scary, every time. As I said last November, these arguments are well and nice, but we’re dying out here. And those of us carrying on are often too exhausted, too busy grieving, to do the standing-up bit every time. You can only marshal a broken heart back into the front lines of struggle so many times.

  110. Claire
    Claire April 16, 2009 at 11:05 am |

    Marti @ 113,

    God, I’d actually forgotten why I stopped going to ibtp… I feel sick now.

  111. voz
    voz April 16, 2009 at 11:07 am |

    You can only marshal a broken heart back into the front lines of struggle so many times.

    I know you are loathe to openly agree with anything I say based on your comments here, but this is the whole point of my action.
    I think we are saying the same things

  112. little light
    little light April 16, 2009 at 11:34 am |

    Voz, there is plenty you say that I agree with, and I’m glad you called out what you did, because it’s an important and necessary conversation to be having. I don’t disagree with your call for a boycott, either. What I just said was about the actions and priorities I choose for myself, not what I want to dictate to other people.
    I think our rhetorical styles differ a great deal, but ideologically, I think we’re on pretty much the same page and working toward the same goals. And I think coming at those goals from different angles is important and helps get the job done. Disagreeing with you on some points doesn’t mean I think you’re not someone worth listening to and standing with.

  113. little light
    little light April 16, 2009 at 11:45 am |

    I mean, that is to say: Voz, I have difficulty figuring out what we do disagree on except questions of approach and methodology. And yes, those questions are important, but in substance, I don’t see us as so far apart at all, and I’m not hostile to you, you know? I’m trying to approach the struggle in the way that best allows me to sustain myself while fighting, and often that means staying away from the front lines because I’m just too hurt and tired and want to build things for us behind the battlements for a while. It doesn’t mean I think being on the front line isn’t valuable.
    It’s that gardening thing again. That paved-over lot will take years of labor to break up and turn into a garden plot, but the work does need to happen. I just know that when it comes to exhausting myself with a couple hours of swinging a pickaxe or getting just as tired spending all day planting where it’s already fertile…some days I have the energy and cope for the pickaxe, and some days I need to trust other people with a different approach to do that hard hacking away while I step back and work on nurturing the plants we’re going to put there when the ground is clear. It’s just personal priorities for where I think I’ll be most productive and sustainable in a broad movement that incorporates a whole lot of different jobs, not a judgment of any kind.

  114. Jadey
    Jadey April 16, 2009 at 11:49 am |

    re: cis people not commenting on posts about transphobic violence and the MRA analogy

    This didn’t ring false for me the first time I read it, but on reflection I realized that it suggests that the argument is for active complicity, rather than passive. Are cis-identified people implicated in a social structure that privileges us? Absolutely. But while I can understand someone who is actively complicit in precipitating or supporting such violence (e.g., someone who advocates that trans people are wrong or bad; the MRA of the analogy) not being welcomed in a grieving or memorializing space, it remains that passive complicity, the complicity of privilege, is only deepened by silence. In fact to battle this kind of complicity it is more imporant to make it public that we do not approve, or else it can be assumed that we do. I would also suggest that cis people who want to be allies have a responsibility to be role models for other cis people, and being a visible presence (though not a dominating presence, if that makes any sense) is part of that.

    I am very sad to hear of yet another transphobic murder. I lit a candle for Angie Zapata on Facebook, but only one of my friends did as well. I have a small private blog and I’m going to start posting information on these murders there.

  115. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 16, 2009 at 12:07 pm |

    little light @ 118:

    There is no such thing as safe space, just safER space, sometimes, for a minute here and there. When you’re colonized, when you’re in an oppressive system that you’re forced to internalize to survive, even the inside of your own head isn’t safe space.


    and your entire comment: yeah, there is a continuum. it’s not just Michael Savage on one side and Questioning Transphobia on the other. you’ve got places like feministe somewhere in the middle – cis-dominated and frustrating oftentimes, but y’no maybe amenable to being pushed slightly in a different direction — when, and if, i have the energy for it.

  116. amandaw
    amandaw April 16, 2009 at 12:17 pm |

    and it’s not y’alls responsibility to do the pushing, either, for a space like this to become friendlier to you. i think that’s just something that should be emphasized.

  117. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 16, 2009 at 1:20 pm |


    The MRA reference was an analogy to feminism. Some strands of feminism have been extremely transphobic. Even where feminism is not explicitly anti-trans IMO trans issues become secondary to cis concerns and sometimes to the point where feminists are using the anti-trans frame that fundies constructed (i.e., bathrooms) to voice cis concerns. In that way I do believe that feminist community [to the extent we can even say there is one] has engaged in active complicity.

  118. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 16, 2009 at 1:56 pm |

    co-sign what amandaw says @128

    it should be emphasized over and over again. because really its ridiculous that in a movement that constantly tells people/society that they/we need to work on their/our sexism and misogyny that we turn around and tell other people that they’re not trying hard enough to educate us and therefore their concerns must not be that important. (or apparently “mainstream” according to bitchphd. wtf did that even mean? beyond being deflective nonsense i mean.)

    and Kristen J @129

    “Even where feminism is not explicitly anti-trans IMO trans issues become secondary to cis concerns and sometimes to the point where feminists are using the anti-trans frame that fundies constructed (i.e., bathrooms) to voice cis concerns.”

    all of that. we are all complicit. which doesn’t mean to me that are responses as ciswomen allies are then unimportant or automatically offensive (they can be though, especially if we don’t check our privilege and make the responses about ourselves once again.) but it means that we have to constantly be working in whatever ways that we can.*

    (*note that i think this always seems like an intimidating call to action. but i think if we are honest with ourselves about what we can do as allies at the moment. sometimes all you can give is your presence. sometimes your words. some times your time to events. sometimes your $$. you do what you can and strive to be able to do more when it becomes possible.)

  119. Jadey
    Jadey April 16, 2009 at 1:56 pm |


    I apologize for mis-representing your comment.

  120. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. April 16, 2009 at 2:04 pm |


    Don’t apologize! I was just clarifying. It was an offhand comment with too much internal background that I didn’t explain! My bad, not yours.


    I think I get that now. Lisa and Cara also mentioned that they thought my silence was wrong as well. I definitely need to give more thought to how, why and when I comment.

  121. gogojojo
    gogojojo April 16, 2009 at 2:42 pm |

    @kristen j i wasn’t really aiming that response towards you. i meant it more broadly but it was influenced by responses to your comment. just to be clear.

  122. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan April 16, 2009 at 4:55 pm |

    It’s more work for the poster each time, but having something at the end of every post basically being like “no cis-centric talk! shuttup about it! yes, I mean the stuff about ______ too” might help (or, yanno, having a statement that is more informative and specific might be good too. ^^;) Because this site sometimes isn’t really exclusively anybody-centric (except for the times when it accidentally devolves into being white-het-cis-centric I guess) I do kinda find myself applying the rules from the more casual let-the-conversation-evolve-as-it-will posts to the posts that are really intended to be more about one thing and to *not* stray from that. It’s obviously my own fault (and my privilege) that I sometimes can’t take a hint about what’s appropriate when, but I genuinely find myself being more thoughtful and focused when I’m explicitly told to be.

    With my friends in RL we’re all pretty similar, so almost *anything* I bring up is usually relevant to the whole group (though that might be because most of what I bring up is anime-related…) so reminding myself that I should shut up is difficult at best. (I should probably be shutting up right now, sorry!)

    So, maybe it’s spoon-feeding me or whatever to be like “shuttup about X!” but just on a practical level telling me what to do *will* elevate the discourse. I have plans to eventually not *need* stuff spelled out, but if the kind people at Feministe are willing to do it probably I’ll end up saying better stuff. To be practical and honest about it.

  123. Jesse
    Jesse April 16, 2009 at 5:37 pm |

    I am a white cisgendered woman, and I just wanted to say that in the interest of full disclosure. I try to be aware of my privileges and be careful with my language, and I do not expect anybody to do more than be angry at my possible future failures to do so. That is, any help/correction I receive is an unexpected blessing.

    Trans issues are actually of huge interest to me personally, albeit in a much different way than they would be for some/most/all people who are trans*. I have a much broader interest in things like sexuality and gender, and have taken time to educate myself on as many things that I can possibly find related to these topics. As well, I have friends who are trans and I have wanted to take the time to understand more about what they might be experiencing. The information is out there if you look. If you want to learn about trans topics, issues, language, experiences, etc. there is actually a lot of information out there. Trans* people who are willing to talk about their experiences, or at least about a specific experience, do sometimes put this information out where others can read it. There are people in the non-virtual world who do so as well, just because it takes more than a cursory glance to find the material does not mean it is not out there. Read, read, read. Listen. The answers are not going to be easily found in cis-centered places, that is most places, but it can be found. And by “information” and other similar allusions in this past paragraph, I am essentially speaking of “trans 101″ stuff, although the personal stories often contain so much more than that. I am not saying go and invade trans spaces, I am saying that there is very real information put out there for everybody to read, and you can learn so much by just reading. Even reading discussions and comment threads. Speak out against phobia and being blind to privilege, but do not expect to ever know what it is like. Do not expect to know what is best for the group you are not a part of but wish to learn more about.

    I say all of the above to those cis-people who wish to learn but find themselves at a loss how to do so. I think one way to combat cis-supremacy in spaces that are supposed to be inclusive to so many different people is by education, the best way to learn about trans*-related-anything is from the source, and you cannot expect random people/posts to be your personal tutor. People do say these things, in places where you can read about it. There is no need to hi-jack any random topic that contains the word “trans*” just in order to learn about what you specifically want to. Believe me when I say there are places where people post about the information you are actually looking for.

    As for derailing, I know I am terrible for doing it. Not just on trans* issues, but on anything really. A terrible habit of mine that I never really learned to be incorrect — but a lot of the stuff surrounding these recent topics has definitely opened my eyes. I definitely reek of privilege. I am not one to get terribly upset when a man comes in saying “what about the men?” in a post about issues related to women, which might be connected to my blase feelings toward detrailing, but privilege is obviously the major contributor… I guess I have just been very fortunate, or very blind, or perhaps a combination of both, to never really have experienced getting upset over somebody derailing my topic. Perhaps I felt I could go discuss elsewhere, where I would be listened to. Perhaps my ADD aids me in jumping from one topic to the next in the same paragraph without even really noticing, even if it was somebody else doing it.

    Actually, the ADD thing is why I try to refrain from commmenting very often. I fear that I will derail, not actually contribute, whatever. I learn so much by reading anyways, I just wish I felt comfortable contributing to discussions. But this particular situation, at least, is something I should work on overcoming.

  124. Donna
    Donna April 16, 2009 at 8:39 pm |

    It really does happen every time. Go check out the thread at Bitch PhD to see a couple of cis people derailing into talking about the legal/BDSM definition of consent, and same sex marriage, polygamy, incest, and beastiality. You would think the topic would stick to the transphobia in the “joke”, but of course not, that doesn’t center cis people.

  125. voz
    voz April 16, 2009 at 11:13 pm |

    @little light


    u and I should talk sometime. u kno how to find me.

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  127. Amber Rhea
    Amber Rhea April 17, 2009 at 6:39 am |

    Molly is derailing for asking what “cis” means? Holy shit… what are we turning into?

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  129. Xaninxs
    Xaninxs April 17, 2009 at 9:07 am |

    “Molly is derailing for asking what “cis” means?”

    It IS worth noting that a simple Google search of “transgender cis” without the quotes yields Wikipedia’s “Cisgender” page as a result.

  130. queen emily
    queen emily April 17, 2009 at 9:27 am |


  131. queen emily
    queen emily April 17, 2009 at 9:29 am |

    *cries speshul cis white girl tears*

  132. queen emily
    queen emily April 17, 2009 at 9:31 am |

    Ironically, it is us who have become the real monsters.

  133. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 17, 2009 at 9:47 am |

    zomg, amber, we are *so demanding*!!! we are holding GUNS to your HEAD, forcing you to spend thirty ENTIRE SECONDS googling it or looking it up on wikipedia.

    especially on a thread that deals specifically with topics of concern to trans people, a thread whose author is *attempting* to at least somewhat center trans concerns, oh it is TOTZ UNREASONABLE to expect cis people to do the damned work.

    no, of course, we are totally here just to educate the cis people, that why God put us on this earth.

    MY GOD WHAT HAVE WE BECOME? WHAT ARE WE TURNING INTO? the scary meany humorless trans borg with our demands to be permitted to live our lives without getting our heads bashed in.

    “There. There’s my teeth. There’s my cause.” – little light

  134. GallingGalla
    GallingGalla April 17, 2009 at 9:50 am |

    oh, and at 1 out of 500 to 1000 or so, we are totz a threat to the cis world.

  135. piny
    piny April 17, 2009 at 9:54 am |

    Molly is derailing for asking what “cis” means? Holy shit… what are we turning into?

    Personally, I welcome our new trans overlords. I can’t wait to start work as a drone in one of Em’s bunny plants.

    Setting aside the privilege aspect, yes, that is a derail. This is not a 101 thread, but a conversation about a different issue. The thread was set up specifically to foreground that other issue, and specifically so that people who are not on the 101 level could speak and get everyone’s full attention.

    As many commenters pointed out in response to Molly, there are 101 sites up the internet wazoo. I think Feministe should become something a little rarer, even if only because of the greater need. I don’t really want to host 101 conversations on my threads myself.

    What’s “we?”

  136. CBrachyrhynchos
    CBrachyrhynchos April 17, 2009 at 10:13 am |

    To use an analogy, it’s rather like going into a feminist discussion about how threads are derailed to focus on men, and asking “well, what is feminism? what is patriarchy? what is rape?” Or going into a gay-, lesbian-, or bisexual-centered discussion and asking “what is heterosexism? what is homophobia?”

    I’ll admit and apologize that I’ve contributed to some of those derails. But when the author makes that request up-front as part of the OP, I really think that should be respected.

  137. Zoe Brain
    Zoe Brain April 17, 2009 at 10:19 am |

    You know what breaks my heart?

    It’s the people who apologise in advance for not knowing, the people who are showing respect. The people who apologise aren’t the problem, and I really hope they realise that there’s no necessity for them to tread on eggshells.

    If you know intellectually that you have cisgendered privilege, well, it may take some time to really understand the scope of it, but as far as I’m concerned, problem solved, and you’ll get there in the end.

    I don’t want anyone to tiptoe around me for fear of offending me. I’ve been allocated the role of victim, but I’ve refused to accept victimhood. So while I’ll point out the persecution, and never let anyone forget the constant, unremitting transphobic violence in thought, word and deed, it’s only really the deeds I worry about. God knows there are enough of them!

    As I wrote in a screed full of implacable accusation on BitchPhD, I won’t give crap like hers a pass. But mis-steps that are well-meant, not even the result of negligence, I guess I just don’t have time to sweat the small stuff. It’s not that I don’t care, or disrespect others opinions, more like I’m up to my ears in true hatred and vitriol from genuine bigots, not merely the unknowingly privileged. I don’t have the time for you that you deserve, and have a right to expect.

    For those who feel guilty about past mis-steps, I ask you to be a little easy on yourself. Please. You’re doing OK, really, and you will do better in future. All I can do is thank you, and ask you not to try too hard. Your earnest confessions of imperfection remind me too much of my own myriad privileges and ignorance.

    It’s those who don’t feel any guilt, who don’t see that there’s a problem, that I must devote my limited energies to educating. Those that unthinkingly hijack threads for example. Please forgive me for that. Sometimes it seems an awfully big mountain, and I have an awfully small teaspoon. And I have a life outside activism, I’m not really the activist type. I had to be pressganged into it.

    Thanks, Cara. You’re doing your best, as am I, and I think that’s all that anyone can reasonably expect, regardless of suboptimal outcomes sometimes.

  138. Holly
    Holly April 17, 2009 at 10:53 am |

    The “cis” thing happens on practically every post. Maybe that points out some kind of lack of easy-access-and-meaning in the terminology, but the more important part is that it happens over and over again, it’s a raw nerve, and it’s understandable that we (trans folks, and people trying really hard to get it right) are going to get a little frustrated about it. That doesn’t mean frustration is the best answer or the right answer or the ultimate #1 best solution for dealing with tangential-at-best questions that come up over and over again. It means sometimes shit happens, especially out at the margins, and everyone’s gotta deal somehow.

  139. violet
    violet April 17, 2009 at 3:21 pm |

    Let’s pretend I said what little light said, only maybe with dancing or juggling or possibly ghost metaphors, and an unusually inquisitive clown. That sounds about right.

    Zoe: Yes. That, too.

  140. Grace Annam
    Grace Annam April 19, 2009 at 6:59 pm |

    Zoe Brain writes:

    You know what breaks my heart?

    It’s the people who apologise in advance for not knowing, the people who are showing respect. The people who apologise aren’t the problem, and I really hope they realise that there’s no necessity for them to tread on eggshells.

    There is, actually.

    Newly self-aware trans people, who are often just starting to figure this out, are often pretty vulnerable, emotionally. And if they just start spouting off, without understanding the ground rules in spaces like this, they’re likely to say something ignorant, and someone like GallingGalla or voz will reply in a harsh manner. Yes, GallingGalla and voz and people like them have every right to reply, and every right to be tired of having to make certain points over and over, and are weary of getting stepped on by people unconscious of cis privilege and so on. But for the person who didn’t get it quite right, it such a reply can be quite a smack in the face.

    And so, the wise newbies shut up and read and listen and do their own research and don’t ask ignorant questions like, “What does ‘cis’ mean?” because if they don’t know how to use a search engine they probably shouldn’t be posting at the varsity level, which is what this is.

    And when they do post, it’s with some trepidation. Like me, right now. I figured out my trans identity years ago, and I’m on pretty good footing with myself, and I like to think I’m articulate. But I’ve also lived a long time with various privileges, and I’m just learning about such things as “othering” and “derailing”, and the basic conventions of polite, thoughtful engagement in spaces like this. I’m actually pretty worried, as I type this, that I’ve broken a rule and I’m going to get my rear end handed to me, and I’m going to go think about it, and conclude, “Damn, she’s right, I screwed up.”

    So, I don’t say much, and I try to be very careful when I post in spaces like these. It’s not so much you particularly Zoe, but if I’m going to walk around you in this space, I’m also walking around others who shoot from the hip. So it behooves me to try hard not to be a deserving target, not only for my own emotional resources, but also so that I don’t put others to the trouble of teaching me something I should have figured out on my own.

    So, here’s hoping this one passes muster. I apologize in advance if I’ve screwed up somewhere.


    P.S. I love violet’s comment @154. “Unusually inquisitive clown”. Eek and yech, all in one hilarious image.

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  142. Jason
    Jason April 22, 2009 at 9:52 pm |

    I don’t tend to read the comments, and until recently, had never commented myself. As a result, I’m actually reading this with no prior knowledge as to what happened.

    I’m trans, FtM. I tend to find something interesting on femanist blogs; I tend to largely be accepted. I’m now questioning whether I’m primarily seen as female with a male name, given that I have female experiences- although I don’t think so. I’m not certain any more though.

    That seems to be the qualifying thing- have you experienced some of the harrowing ordeals of being a woman, and struggling with some of the things femanism deals with. And, well, I have.

    I call myself a male femanist- after all, that’s what I am. But does my experience as a woman include me more than other male femanists? Worse, would it include me more than transgendered female femanists?

    I’m not sure. But it’s an interesting question; and this whole thing is an interesting issue. I do feel trans issues are overlooked too often, but- they’re overlooked a lot less than they used to be.

    I call this progress. Even if it’s not as fast as we’d like, we ARE making it. We just have to make sure we don’t slip backwards any more.

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